The Syfy channel premiered Ascension, a limited event series, in December of 2014, as a way to introduce people to the idea of what would have happened if Project Orion (also check out their Wikipedia page), a government sponsored program from the 1950s that would have placed over 150 scientists on the moon and even been able to send expeditions to other planets, would have actually happened. Ascension chronicles what could have happened had Project Orion actually occurred.
Ascension gives viewers a glimpse into the secret programs of the government and the lives of the people who both wittingly and unwittingly found themselves stuck on that spacecraft. In 1963, at the height of the Cold War, the government secretly recruited 350 people for a mission into space. A huge interstellar spaceship called Ascension was launched into space on a 100 year journey to another solar system. Present day on the ship is 50 years later and viewers are introduced to the children of the original crewmembers, the middle group of people, the ones who are doomed to spend their whole lives on the ship without ever being able to see their destination. Their parents started the ship and their children will be remembered as the ones who complete the journey. This middle group will be forgotten.
Tragedy has struck on Ascension with their first murder having been committed. This leads to chaos as the captain and his crew struggle to figure out who committed this crime while also working to keep the rest of the ship calm. Striated class systems and struggles for power dominate the investigation of the death of a woman from the upper decks as people from the lower decks are accused of the crime. This television show is wracked full of plays for power, multiple ship romances and trysts, and rivalries that will have you on the edge of your seat. Add in the fact that people on board only have access to culture, information, and technologies from 1963 and before and the whole spacecraft takes on an eternal 1960s feel that is intriguing and pleasing to the eye.
Check out this show to learn more information about the launch of Ascension, the people aboard the ship, as well as information about the founders and the governmental organization responsible for making sure the mission stays on course no matter the cost.
Have you ever watched a show that had you continuously scratching your head and wondering what was going on and how any of it could possibly be happening? My latest head-scratching television show is Wayward Pines, a Fox television show that premiered its first season in May of 2015 . This show stars Matt Dillon as Secret Service agent Ethan Burke who is sent to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents. On his way to investigate, Burke is in a serious car accident and wakes up in a hospital in Wayward Pines, a creepily idyllic town in the picturesque mountains of Idaho.
After breaking out of the hospital, Burke begins the investigation into his missing colleagues and also into what actually happened to him before he woke up in the hospital in Wayward Pines. Burke soon realizes that crazy things are happening when he stumbles upon one of his missing colleagues and she tells him she has been in Wayward Pines for years, when she disappeared from DC five weeks prior. Burke tries to leave, tries to get in contact with his wife and son, and tries to pry answers from the sheriff and the townspeople, only to be rebuffed and in danger no matter what he tries. When his family comes looking for him, Burke takes matters into his own hands and desperately searches for a way to free them all for the walled city of Wayward Pines. This television show can be confusing at times, but the giant conspiracy around the whole endeavor had me clamoring for more once I watched the season finale.
This television show is based on the Wayward Pines novels by Blake Crouch. The order of the trilogy is Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town. You can find all three at the Davenport Public Library.
Actors taking a turn behind the camera as directors or producers has become increasingly more common. Russell Crowe has joined the ranks of such actors with the 2014 film, The Water Diviner, in which he both stars and directs this Australian historical fictional war drama.
In The Water Diviner, Crowe stars as Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who lives in Australia on a working farm with his wife and their three sons. After the unexpected death of his wife, Connor heads to Turkey in 1919 after the Battle of Gallipoli in order to find his three missing and presumed dead sons in order to bring their bodies home to be buried next to their mother. Connor repeatedly finds obstacles thrown in his way that bar his ability to, at first, make it to Gallipoli and then to get the officials there to even help him find his son. Facing tension from the military and different governmental agencies while abroad, as well as discrimination in Turkey from the locals who see him as the reason why their family and friends didn’t come home from the war, Connor soon realizes that everyone and everything around him has drastically changed from the war and that he must find a way to survive.. Finding his sons becomes Connor’s driving force through life, leading him to discover things that he is not quite ready to know.
This movie is loosely based on the book The Water Diviner by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios. Check out the following books to learn more about the Battle of Gallipoli.
In The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Better Living Industries, a megacorporation with a ruthless and tyrannical leader, is working to take over more of the world and to cut off the freedoms and emotions of everyone living on the planet. This has been going on for years with revolutionaries and groups popping up every now and then trying to save what they can of the life they used to live and the people that they used to know. A group of four said revolutionaries became THE group of revolutionaries in this world with their likenesses splattered all over the news. Sadly over ten years ago, they were all killed while trying to save the life of a mysterious young girl that Better Living Industries, aka BLI, was trying to kill. This young girl becomes one of the main subject lines of The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Follow along as the Girl works to figure out why BLI tried to kill her, what BLI is doing to all the defunct robots around the world, how these rogue groups are surviving and getting their news, and how the system BLI has set up is really affecting the civilized people in the world and how BLI is able to control the world and its employees.
The writers, Gerard Way and Shaun Simon, along with artist Becky Cloonan, have crafted a very strange, mysterious, and science fiction heavy graphic novel that is rich in details and colors that pop into your subconscious as you follow along with the characters. This graphic novel does not have a traditional linear structure, in the sense that readers will have to pay attention to context and art clues to figure out the difference between the past and the present, but the ideas presented are so intriguing and seemingly plausible that the quick transitions between past and present and also between different characters’ storylines only serve to add to the complex and supremely creative nature of this graphic novel. I highly recommend reading through this graphic novel more than once.
Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer who has had his work translated into thirty-seven languages. He is a lecturer at a university and a short story writer. Keret has also appeared in many newspaper publications and reviews and contributes on This American Life. I was first introduced to Keret through his short stories and the work that he has done on two films, Jellyfish and Wristcutters: A Love Story.
The Seven Good Years: A Memoir chronicles in a year-to-year story the seven years between the birth of Etgar’s son and the death of his father. Each section is broken up into a different year and while Etgar does manage to incorporate flashbacks to help readers realize how he became the person he is today, how he met the people important to him, and how his relationships with his family have grown and changed, the majority of the story is on pivotal moments that happened within those seven years of grandpa, dad, and son relationships.
Lev, Etgar’s son, was born in the middle of a terrorist attack. When they finally get to the hospital, there are no doctors in the maternity ward because there are so many trauma people needing help. The journalist who goes to interview Etgar makes this attack seem commonplace and Etgar soon references Tel Aviv. Readers are thrust into a Keret’s world, a world where he travels the world doing book talks, meets with different people, and does readings from his previous works. The flashbacks provided me with much needed background to understand the reluctance and focus on family behavior through certain circumstances. Although Lev and Etgar experienced their childhood at different time periods, the overarching base emotions prove to be the same. I found this book by Keret to be an engaging and emotional read, one that while being marketed as a memoir, also read to me as a story about more than just his family life. Sure, on the surface the family dynamics are there, but I found myself digging deeper into the book to really flesh out the happenings that molded Etgar and his family to behave the way they do.
I found this book to be an introduction to a culture and an area of the world that I basically grew up knowing little to nothing about. This memoir could have been exceptionally heavy and depressing, in fact at points it is, but Keret was able to show readers that while sad moments are present, there are always ways to find good moments as well.
The English student in me cringes whenever someone says, “Let’s read an essay” because in my mind, the term “essay” is still equated with the five-paragraph, three-reasons-why type essays that you had to write in high school. When I was flipping through Allison Gruber’s You’re Not Edith, a book exclusively filled with autobiographical essays, I noticed that instead of the traditional format, her essays read like chunks of a story broken apart for relief, flashback, comedy, and a wide variety of other purposes. I started reading You’re Not Edith and discovered that I was in fact reading an autobiography with much shorter chapters, something that my brain found easier to digest because there were breaks where I could stop if I had to go do something else and I found that I was able to finish this book much quicker than I was other books. Books containing autobiographical essays have begun to grow on me.
In You’re Not Edith, Allison Gruber reflects upon her entire life as she’s experienced it so far. Just like in her life, Gruber takes risks when she explodes her life into these essays for readers to dissect. She pulls no punches as she describes how she tried to use her fascination with Diane Fossey to help her win her girlfriend in high school or how she was diagnosed with breast cancer as she was teaching at the collegiate level. Gruber is a hilarious writer who speaks with shocking candor and isn’t afraid to tell the truth about her struggles with cancer and how she figured that even though she wouldn’t allow others to take care of her, she would still be able to care for Bernie, a little dachshund who didn’t fit her perfect ideal of the Edith dog, but ended up being exactly what she needed.
I encourage you to pick up this book to check out her feelings on weddings, her father’s mental problems, and how she came into her own through music, drama, English, and many other interconnected things.
Love. Friendship. Vinyl records. Music. And of course, magic. Moreno-Garcia has taken the everyday perils of teenage life and added in her own twist: magic found in vinyl records.
In Signal to Noise, readers are introduced to Meche, an awkward fifteen-year-old girl, who is friends with two other awkward fifteen-year-olds, Sebastian and Daniela, in 1988 Mexico City. As they slog and struggle through family and school, Meche soon discovers that in the vinyl records that are scattered throughout her house lies the possibility of magic. Soon the three are off searching record stores and Meche’s house for records that are either hot to the touch or give off a shock when touched. Meche is the one who shows a natural aptitude and ability for magic, something her grandmother both fears and acknowledges will happen as she too was blessed with the gift of magic at a young age, though she was not nearly as strong as her sisters. As Meche and her friends begin casting spells, they realize that this new magic will afford them the chance to become more popular and noticed, fix their broken families, find love, and become more confident with themselves. This use of magic comes with a price though.
Flash forward to Mexico City in 2009: Meche has come alone back to Mexico City for her estranged father’s funeral. Moreno-Garcia accomplishes the switch between 1988 and 2009 by alternating back and forth between the different time periods as the reader progresses. The difference between 1988 and 2009 leaves readers wondering what happened between Meche and her family, as well as what happened between Meche and her friends.
For those of you that are trying to wade your way into the realm of fantasy or those of you who are looking for a break from heavy fantasy, Moreno-Garcia helps these by tempering the amount of practiced magic in her book with stories of magic told by Meche’s grandmother about previous practicing witches and warlocks. The amount of fantasy within the book is also lessened by the fact that the friendships between the three teens dominate the majority of the book with magic being a thread that weaves its way throughout everything. This book worked for me as a good introduction into fantasy since the magic present within did not overwhelm me as I was reading.
I love book lists. Give me a list of award books or a list of books you absolutely adored, and I will slowly make my way through the list until I have read them all. Today’s book is one I discovered on an award list. The title is Everything I Never Told You and is Celeste Ng’s debut novel. I first heard of Everything I Never Told You when I was tuned in to watch the Alex Awards online. The Alex Awards are an award given out by the American Library Association (ALA) to the 10 best adult books that have special appeal to teens. (This book has also been on numerous other lists and won another award. Check out Celeste Ng’s website for more information.)
Everything I Never Told You begins, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast.” After those simple, yet devastating, few sentences, Ng weaves together the story of a Chinese-American family growing up in 1970s Ohio. Each family member is outlined: the professor father James, stay-at-home mother Marilyn, older brother Nathan who is desperate to leave home, younger sister Hannah who seems to blend into the background, and the middle golden-child Lydia whose mother and father have placed all of their hopes on her shoulders, as well as several other members of the community. When Lydia’s body is found in the lake right down the street from their house, the entire family falls apart.
This book delves into the complex nature of the Lees: family, history, home, and the struggles we all make on a daily basis to understand each other and to find ourselves.
If that description caught your interest, check out No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale. This book deals with similar concepts of love, loss, and the tragic and upheaving nature of death. This book takes place in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin, where residents have been shocked by the discovery of high school student Ruth Fried’s body in a cornfield. Her best friend, 16-year-old Kippy Bushamn, finds herself trying to solve her best friend’s murder. Ruth’s mother has given Ruth’s diary to Kippy with the express instruction to redact the sexy parts. Kippy sets out to find out who murdered her best friend and discovers that in her small Midwestern town, everyone seems to have secrets.
This quirky murder mystery will have you following Kippy around as she emulates her idol, Diane Sawyer, to figure out who her best friend really was and what really happened when she died.
For those of you not familiar with Diane Johnson, she is a writer who grew up right in the Midwest, in Moline, Illinois to be specific. Her Midwest roots can be found throughout her writings, specifically in her memoir, Flyover Lives.
Johnson grew up in Moline and writes that the Midwest was a place she wanted to escape from. She eventually ended up in California and then in France, where the idea for this book sprang forth. At a house party in France, Johnson’s friend told her that Americans had an “indifference to history,” that that was why Americans were naïve and didn’t have as much of a grasp and pride in their history as the French did. When Johnson eventually made her way back to California, this conversation stayed stuck in her head. What if the people in the Midwest, otherwise known as the flyover states, also flew over their family history with little thought given to where they came from and the struggles of their ancestors? This bothered Johnson and she set out to find out more about her genealogy. This book serves as her rebuttal.
Accompanied with pictures from her life and her ancestors’ lives, Johnson weaves together a story about the hold that home has on us all and our twin desire to escape to other places and make a name for ourselves. Johnson and her readers will find similarities between their own lives and the descriptions of her ancestors and their eventual journey to the Midwest. The letters and memoirs Johnson discovered serve as the backdrop to her exploration of a proud family history that ends up in the Midwest with the potential to leak around the world.
Looking for more books by Johnson? You’re in luck! The library has a number of books by her like Le divorce, Le mariage, and L’affaire. Some of these books are also available in large print, e-books, and audio books. Le Divorce was also made into a movie. Interested in finding copies of those, either click on the titles or visit the library catalog and search.
Let me first admit that the way I discovered this book was not when I placed it on my “to-be-ordered” list or when I stumbled upon it by happenstance in the library. Instead, I was talking about BookFace Friday. This event happens every Friday when librarians and other bookish people find books with people’s faces as the cover, pose with them as their actual face, and post pictures on their social media accounts. (Still confused? Check out the Instagram page for BookFace Friday.) As I was looking up examples to show, I found someone using this book as their face. I was instantly intrigued by the title and immediately wrote it down to order/read.
Donald Hall, former U.S. poet laureate, constructed Essays After Eighty as a way to describe for others the vantage point of life at very old age. The essays Hall has written for this collection intricately weave subjects like death, aging, being limited when you reach old age, traveling in foreign countries, honorary degrees, his love of garlic, and just what is actually important to you when you reach his age. Describing for readers his deep love for his home, the deceased love of his life, and how to deal with growing older are just some of the topics Hall broaches in this enduring collection. Hall extends back to his past in some essays describing scenes that stand out in his mind to the present where he spends his time at Eagle Pond Farm.
Be sure to check out this book to read more about Hall’s life as a biographer, children’s author, and as a human being trying to figure out how to deal with everything old age has thrown at him.